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​​The Mess that is Luxury Fashion

BY GEORGIA ROSE

What is going on with all these luxury brands?

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15 JAN -2023

Luxury fashion is a mess

It had hardly been 24 hours since Raf Simons had announced the closure of his namesake brand before Gucci let slip that Alessandro Michele, Creative Director since 2015, was stepping down.

We’ve been at the forefront of Ye’s breakdown’s (read, multiple breakdowns over the past few years) watching the YEEZY franchise hit the lowest low at Paris Fashion Week’s October shows. If that wasn’t already enough, I’m sure you’ve already heard, Adidas x YEEZY is no longer.

To top it off, Balenciaga just can’t seem to stop the wheel of bad press, highlighting parent company Kering’s - also owner of Gucci - need for a bit of a turnaround.

If you’ve already succumbed to luxury fashion fatigue in recent weeks, we don’t blame you. To help wade through the drama, we’ve summarised everything you need to know.

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ON GUCCI

Alessandro Michele was the breath of fresh air Gucci needed in 2015, but now is set to leave the company. Michele dominated the fashion zeitgeist with his re-work of old classics and colourful, gender-fluid styling. This new direction reignited excitement around the brand and brought in a younger generation as its audience by expanding into savvy collaborations with the likes of Adidas and The North Face to bring mass market appeal. During this time, Gucci’s revenues roughly tripled, a rapid expansion that had never been seen in the modern luxury market.

The maximalist aesthetic wore off, and with it, the novelty factor of Michele’s twisted, campy approach to fashion. Kering, Gucci’s owners noted that they “wanted all the company’s brands to refocus their efforts on a more timeless approach to luxury.”

For months, the brand has been preparing for this transition, hiring a new chief merchandising officer, and expanding its studio team. While Gucci may have been preparing behind the scenes, they are yet to announce a new Creative Director.

My only question. What are Jarod Leto and Harry Styles going to wear now?

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ON RAF SIMONS

Raf Simons, founded in 1995, first began as a groundbreaking menswear brand known for a focus on youth culture.

Simons announced the closure of his brand last week, stating their Spring-Summer 2023 collection, showcased in London during the October fashion week, would be the brand’s last.

Raf isn’t disappearing from fashion overnight. Two years ago, he partnered with Miuccia Prada as Co-Creative Director of both Prada Men’s and Women’s wear, and there’s no sign of this ending anytime soon. This isn’t the last we will see of his designs.

What does this closure mean for luxury fashion? It’s a sign that there’s major change in the works. While Simons didn’t cite an official reason for the closure, ‘fashion insiders’ assume the brand’s decision to shut down could be due to an uncertain fashion market. Many have also speculated that this might just be another Demna at Balenciaga situation. Demna ceased association with his own brand, Vetements. It’s possible the idea that fashion people should be doing more than one job at a time has finally gone out of fashion.

While we can’t say anything certain, what we can say is that the final collection (if delivered) will be stripped from stores, with re-sale values skyrocketing - similar to Phoebe Philo’s exit from Celine. Either way, Raf Simons will remain sacred forever.

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ON BALENCIAGA

Slow to sever ties with Kayne West during his most recent outburst, Balenciaga were quick to remove themselves from Twitter (the first brand to do so) as Elon Musk took the reins. This move earned them much positive press, similar to when Bottega Veneta removed themselves from Instagram. PR stunt gone right. But that’s all that has worked for the company thus far.

After the successful exit from Twitter and West, the brand took a very steep fall, facing backlash for their recent ‘Holiday’ campaign. The imagery, which has since been deleted, featured children holding teddy bear bags clad in bondage gear. This sparked followers to dig deeper into some of the brand’s recent shoots, to discover imagery for Spring 2023 displayed “unsettling documents.” One of the photos appeared to show an excerpt from a court ruling involving child pornography.

The company has apologised and said it’s “taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items.” They added that Balenciaga “strongly condemns abuse of children in any form. We stand for children’s safety and well-being.”

If your TikTok feed is anything to go by, we might not be seeing a hike in purchases. It’s definitely a brand that fashion royalty are taking a step back from for now. Something to note - Balenciaga are owned by parent brand Kering, who also own Gucci. With everything going on, I would say something big will be on its way.

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ON ADIDAS X YEEZY

The fashion industry has drawn a line following the YZYSZN9 show during the most recent Paris Fashion Week in October. In a bid not to give too much airtime to West, yet to summarise the events, massive controversy ensued after a series of antisemitic comments were made, followed by Ye himself wearing a T-Shirt bearing a slogan associated with white supremacists. Enough said.

After mounting public and internal pressure, Adidas cut ties with the celebrity stating, “Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, they violate the company's values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.” Adidas is one of the many brands to cut ties with Ye, with the list including heavy hitters like Balenciaga, Gap, Morgan Chase Bank and Hollywood talent agency CAA.

The line of Yeezy Sneakers accounted for nearly 7 percent of Adidas’ annual revenue in 2021, and the move is expected to cut nearly $246 million USD (nearly $400million NZD) from Adidas’ net income.

So what does that mean for the Yeezy branding and designs? Ye’s company, Mascotte Holdings Inc. own more than 160 trademark applications and registrations for the Yeezy brand, but Adidas owns the rights to the designs of most of the Yeezy shoes, including the Boost 350 cult sneaker. While we don’t know the ins and outs of the contract, if both parties are able to retain ownership of their IP, it’s likely we will see Yeezy return to Paris once more, and Adidas continuing a line of Yeezy sneakers in a bid to claw back lost revenue.

Will 2023 be the year Kayne turns it around?

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